MasteringA&P educator study explores student experience at Robeson Community College


MasteringA&P educator study explores student experience at Robeson Community College

Key Findings

  • In an end-of-semester survey, 100 percent of student respondents said they were able to sign in to Mastering on their first attempt.
  • Student survey data reveal that 92 percent of participating students in this study have a goal of completing an associate’s degree or higher, while only 32 percent of their parents or caregivers received an associate’s degree or higher.
  • Survey data report that 63 percent of participating students agreed they had access to a greater variety of learning materials when using Mastering, and 61 percent said they came to class better prepared.

School name
Robeson Community College, Lumberton, NC

Course name
Anatomy and Physiology I and II

Course format
Face to face

Course materials
MasteringA&P; Human Anatomy and Physiology, by Marieb and Hoehn

Fall 2015

Louis McIntyre, Professor and Chair (formerly of Robeson CC)

Results reported by
Betsy Nixon, Pearson Customer Outcomes Analytics Manager


About the Course

Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) is a two-course sequence that provides students with an in-depth understanding of the principles of anatomy and physiology of the human body and their interrelationships. The courses are primarily taken by health science majors, with A&P I being a required pre-requisite for admission into several of the college’s programs. To demonstrate attainment of course objectives for both A&P I and II, and to earn credit for Allied Health programs and College Transfer programs, a student must achieve an overall average of C or higher (77 percent or higher) in each A&P course.

A&P I is a lecture and lab course that provides a comprehensive study of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Topics include body organization, homeostasis, cytology, histology, and the integumentary, skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems and special senses. Student outcomes for A&P I include:

  • Recognize the complementarities of structure and function.
  • Describe basic metabolic processes of organ systems.
  • Explain the interrelationships between organ systems and physiological processes.
  • Explain the major homeostatic mechanism utilized in each body system in response to internal and external environmental changes.
  • Explain physiological and anatomical mechanisms of common dysfunctions.

A&P II, a continuation of A&P I, is also a lecture and lab format. Topics include the endocrine, cardiovascular, lymphatic, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and reproductive systems as well as metabolism, nutrition, acid-base balance, and fluid and electrolyte balance. Course objectives for A&P II include:

  • Evolution: Understand how the human body has evolved over time as evidenced in the increasing occurrence of certain diseases, such as diabetes mellitus.
  • Structure and function: Explain and give examples of complementarity of structure and function and how structure dictates function at the cellular, tissue, organ, and organ system level.
  • Information flow, exchange, and storage: Describe the basic metabolic processes of organ systems and how the growth and/or behavior of organisms are activated through the expression of genetic information.
  • Pathways and transformation of energy and matter: Indicate the most significant processes by which the human body grows and changes that are based upon chemical transformation pathways which are governed by the laws of thermodynamics.
  • Systems: List the major body organ systems and physiological processes, and describe the interrelationship amongst said systems in the maintenance of homeostasis in the human body.
  • Homeostasis: Explain the major homeostatic mechanisms utilized in each body system in response to internal and external environmental changes.
  • Diseases: Explain physiological and anatomical mechanisms of common dysfunctions when control mechanisms no longer function in the maintenance of homeostasis.

Challenges and Goals

Robeson adopted Mastering for the majority of their science courses beginning Fall 2012. The courses were Anatomy and Physiology I and II, General Biology I and II, General Chemistry I and II, and Microbiology. They added Mastering to the Introductory Physics course starting in Spring 2013.  The school is located in a rural area with a high rate of poverty in the county, and the college services many non-traditional students.

The goal of the 2012 course redesign was to address the issue of students not coming to class prepared, to provide a resource that helped students remediate and learn outside the classroom, and to enable faculty to easily monitor student progress. Instructors were required to assign pre-lecture homework, but had flexibility with the content assigned.  The department also established a goal of trying to better understand student learning based on course outcomes. For Spring 2013, the Mastering homework was tagged with the student learning outcomes, enabling instructors to better monitor and track progress.

An analysis of results for all science courses using Mastering was conducted in 2013, and four educator case studies published in 2014. In the A&P educator study, faculty reported that adding pre-lecture MasteringA&P assignments facilitated increased student preparedness and engagement and enabled more time for interactive learning in class. For the period of the initial study, students earning final course grades of an A or B increased. The department continued to monitor course data, and in Fall 2015, the A&P I and II courses participated in a follow-up study (Study Update) designed to learn more about the student experience using Mastering in gateway science courses.


For Fall 2015, the A&P I and II courses were implemented as follows:

Four lecture exams were administered, and no exams were dropped. A comprehensive final exam was also given, and it could replace the lowest lecture exam if needed. Exams were administered via paper and pencil and consisted of multiple-choice and short-answer questions. Two laboratory exams were administered and could not be taken if missed.

Untimed, required MasteringA&P homework was assigned pre- and post-lecture comprised of a mix of question types, including multiple choice and tutorials. Students had one attempt on the homework, and were not permitted to turn homework in late. There was one assignment per chapter, and instructors expected students would spend approximately 5–6 hours out of class per week studying and doing homework. The goal of pre-lecture homework was to encourage students to do the reading and come to class better prepared with an understanding of the course concepts so they could better participate in activities and lab. Post-lecture homework was intended to reinforce the concepts. For A&P II, Mastering’s Interactive Physiology was also assigned for each system studied and included required worksheets.

Instructors reported that the automated grading in Mastering made it easier to assign graded homework and to understand where students needed additional help and clarification. Best practices identified from the redesign include:

  • Provide students with start-up guidance, information for technical support, and an explanation of the value of Mastering.
  • Reinforce the value of doing assignments before each lecture.



45%                        Lecture exams (four)
15%                        Comprehensive final exam
15%                        Lab exams (two)
10%                        MasteringA&P homework
10%                        Lab work
5%                          Classwork


45%                        Lecture exams (four)
15%                        Comprehensive final exam
15%                        Lab exams (two)
10%                        MasteringA&P homework
10%                        Lab (quizzes & IP)
5%                          Presentation/other

Results and Data

A summary of the results from the initial 2013 analysis of all students in A&P included the following:

  • For A&P I, there was a four percentage point increase in As in the Spring 2013 semester over the Spring 2012 semester, the last semester not using MasteringA&P.
  • For A&P II, there was a 21 (Fall 2012) and 9 (Spring 2013) percentage point increase respectively for total As and Bs over the highest reported semester not using MasteringA&P.
  • Students who earned an A in A&P I or II in the Fall 2012 semester averaged 90 percent on their MasteringA&P homework.
  • Students who earned an F in A&P I or II in the Fall 2012 semester averaged 35 percent and 17 percent respectively on their MasteringA&P homework.

For Fall 2015, two instructors with a total of seven sections of A&P I and II participated in the study update. Data were available for 137 students, but only 49 students with reported data (36 percent) opted to participate in the study and consented to have their data analyzed. Because of the low number of students who opted in, the focus for this analysis was on the qualitative information about the student experience using MasteringA&P. Pre- and post-semester surveys were administered to students in A&P I and II via Survey Monkey. For the 36 percent of students who opted in (participating students), the following results were found:

  • 100 percent of participating students said they were able to log in to Mastering on their first attempt.
  • Nine participating students (18 percent) earned lower than a C (course score below 77 percent).
  • The average MasteringA&P homework score among participating students was 90 percent.
  • The average final exam score among participating students was 87 percent.
  • The average final course score among participating students was 85 percent.
  • Participating students who scored less than 77 percent on the final exam averaged 87 percent on the MasteringA&P homework.
  • Participating students who scored 90–100 percent on the final exam averaged 92 percent on the MasteringA&P homework.

Students who opted in to the study update provided the demographic information presented in figures 1 and 2. Figure 1 shows the majority of participating students (55 percent) were enrolled as full-time students at Robeson, and had been enrolled at the community college for 3–4 years. In addition, 41 percent of participating students graduated from high school between 2011 and 2015, and the average score for level of comfort with technology reported was 9.2 (on a scale of 1–10).

Figure 2 provides insight into educational attainment levels of participating students’ parents or caregivers, along with their own educational goals. Of note is that among participating students, 67 percent said the highest level of education of their parents or caregivers was either that they did not finish high school, graduated high school, or did not complete college. Sixty-three percent of participating students have a goal of completing a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 92 percent a goal of an associate’s degree or higher.

Demographic data for students opting to participate in a study update for A&P I and II


Figure 1, A&P I and II, Fall 2015 (n=49)

Educational attainment levels and goals for students opting to participate in a study update for A&P I and II


Figure 2, A&P I and II, Fall 2015 (n=49)

The Student Experience

Student surveys provided an opportunity to obtain feedback on the student experience with MasteringA&P and to compare their experience with their course performance. Students were asked both multiple-choice and open-ended survey questions. The first survey was administered during the first two weeks of class, and the second survey, which focused specifically on the experience in their respective A&P class, was administered during the last 3–4 weeks of the semester.

Students were asked, on a scale of 0 (not likely at all) to 10 (extremely likely), “How likely is it that you would recommend Mastering to a friend or colleague?” The average response among participating students was 7.6.

Students were also asked, “When using the Pearson product in this course (Mastering), I believe that…” along with a series of statements. The answer options to each statement were disagree, agree, or Neutral. Participating students provided the following responses to these statements:

  • 61% of students agreed, “I came to class better prepared.”
  • 57% of students agreed, “I was more engaged in the learning experience”
  • 63% of students agreed, “I had access to a greater variety of learning materials.”

Students were then asked the following open-ended question, “How has Mastering impacted your learning in this course?” Several responses are listed in table 1. In addition, each student’s final exam score is included with his or her comment.

Student Response Final Exam Score
The videos provided helped me a lot; being able to see what was being discussed helped me to better understand the material. 100%
It assisted me in studying. 100%
It has better prepared me for tests because I had actual questions to answer to see how well I understood the material covered. 100%
Helped me review for the test. 99%
Mastering has given me other sources to help study and prepare for this course. 97%
Gained more information from interactive visuals. 95%
It has helped me learn more than what I would’ve only learned in class. 93%
Mastering helped me understand better what my teacher was teaching and gave me a better view on what she was explaining. 92%

Table 1, A&P I and II, Fall 2015 (n=49)

While the students quoted in table 1 had final exam scores above 90 percent, some other students who passed the course but had lower final exam averages answered the following:

  • “It has given me more work to do which helps my grade in the end.” (80 percent final exam score)
  • “Mastering has helped me understand topics in my courses better and I enjoyed learning every day.” (76 percent final exam score)

It’s not possible to know what score each of these students would have earned without using MasteringA&P, but these students’ comments suggest that they believe Mastering provided them with what they perceived as beneficial resources which helped them do better in the course.

Finally, students were asked, “What do you think are the benefits of using Mastering?” Comments included:

  • “Extra learning material”
  • “It is a fun way to study by yourself at home.”
  • “Better comprehension means better grades.”
  • “It helps you comprehend some of the material we learned in class as a review.”
  • “It allowed me to go to class more prepared and ready to learn more exciting things.”
  • “I think the benefits of Mastering are the ability to learn more about a specific topic on your own time and at your own pace.”
  • “Mastering helps you to learn the material better than by just reading your textbook.”
  • “The main benefit of using Mastering is to strengthen your understanding and knowledge of your course [concepts].”


Robeson Community College redesigned their science curriculum in 2012 and 2013 adding required pre-lecture Mastering homework to each course to encourage students to come to class more prepared. The goal was to allow instructors to spend more in-class time developing conceptual and critical thinking. The department tracked student learning outcomes and evaluated their course results reporting on their findings in a group of 2014 educator case studies. In Fall 2015, they participated in a study update, collecting both quantitative and qualitative data. Since less than half of the students opted in to the Fall 2015 study, this report focused on the feedback received from students, providing insight into the qualitative experience and how students feel Mastering impacted their performance.

An article in the Research in Higher Education Journal stated that, “Student outcomes, student retention, attrition, and graduation rates are some of the key measures of the quality and overall effectiveness of the higher educational institution. The implementation of these policies provides incentives and encouragement for higher educational institutions to study factors that affect the quality and overall effectiveness of their programs. Student satisfaction level has been found to be one of the factors that affects the quality and overall effectiveness of a university program.” (Aitken, 1982; Astin, Korn, & Green, 1987; Bailey, Bauman, & Lata, 1998; Love, 1993; Suen, 1983).

Students who participated in the Fall 2015 study update provided positive feedback via student surveys, with participating students saying they are likely to recommend Mastering to a friend or colleague. Student comments provided insight into the student experience which helped educators understand what impact Mastering had on the time spent working outside of class—something instructors believed was necessary to do well in the course. One of the A&P instructors was asked for a best practice that she would share with instructors who have a high population of students who enter college unprepared to complete college-level math, writing, or science courses. Her response: “Encourage students to spend time reading their textbook and better preparing themselves.” Based on student feedback, MasteringA&P was a tool that data indicate participating students used to do just that.




Aitken, N. D. (1982). College student performance, satisfaction and retention. Journal of Higher Education, 53, 32-50.

Astin, A., Korn, W., & Green, K. (1987, Winter). Retaining and satisfying students. Educational Record, 36-42.

Bailey, B. L., Bauman, C., & Lata, K. A. (1998). Student retention and satisfaction: The evolution of a predictive model. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 424797).

Love, B. J. (1993). Issues and problems in the retention of Black students in predominately White institutions of higher learning. Equity and Excellence in Education, 26(1), 27-37.

Suen, H. K. (1983). Alienation and attrition of Black college students on a predominately white campus. Journal of College Student Personnel, 24(2), 117-121.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *